California and Beyond.

Hard to believe it’s been two months since I last posted in here, but when you write all day, one finds that you either don’t have the time or mental energy to do it for yourself. I’m a better narrative than technical writer, but I need to stay in practice, especially if I ever plan to get my own writing projects off the ground.

So what have I been up to of late? I gave up my second job. After my hospital scare last fall, I needed some extra money to pad out my finances, so one job led to two, and while everything is not perfect, I am now back to one. It was a good move for me. Working anywhere for 8-16 hours a day 7 days a week is surprisingly not as much fun as you’d think. But it’s over, and now I get to re-experience what “weekends” are actually like again. It truly is the little things in life.

My regular (and now only) job sent me to Lake Tahoe a few weeks ago to cover a charity event at Shakespeare Ranch. Pictures don’t do the place justice, as it’s unlike any other place I’ve seen in Nevada. For starters, it’s actually green up there, something of which I actually had doubts of existing in this state.

Shakespeare Rock.

Shakespeare Rock.

The charity raises money for Alzheimer’s disease, and while it was a lovely event, I need to rewind a bit.

Getting there was typical for my adventure set.

A co-worker and I went as a team, and while it started out fairly normal, by the time we landed in Los Angeles for our stopover, it was anything but. LAX airport is a dump. There. I said it. And I mean it, for that matter. Our terminal looked like it was out of some third world country, and to access it, we had to take a shuttle that literally had us racing alongside planes, and stopping at intersections for them. By the time we got to the terminal, we looked around for precisely thirty seconds, turned to each other, simultaneously said “Nope” to each other, and immediately hopped back on the shuttle to visit the bar and avoid staying there any longer than we had to.

When it came time to go, they shuttled us on this tiny plane that looked like it had been shipped out of the Warner Bros. prop archives fresh out of Casablanca. As we walked to the loading door, I stopped by co-worker before we got on: “If that plane leaves the ground and you’re not with him, you’ll regret it. Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of your life.” The door opened. “Here’s looking at you kid”, I quipped. I looked again at the plane. “I hope this thing can actually fly”, I muttered as I got on the tiny craft. I also half expected that the pilot would eject us over Mayapore, India, where we would be unexpectedly be dropped off and have to slide down a mountain in a giant raft before being asked to retrieve the neighboring village’s Sankara stones.

I watch a lot of movies, by the way.

But back at Lake Tahoe, the grounds were beautiful, and the people were nice. We got to watch the rodeo as we did social media updates, and there was a lot of cowboy flinging involved by angry bulls and horses.

This lady here could shoot pistols while riding a horse. That made her pretty badass.

This lady here could shoot pistols while riding a horse. That made her pretty badass.

I also got to see Reno. Not so much there, from the limited time we had, but I did get to see the arch.

Reno's arch.

Reno’s arch.

If there’s more to see in Reno, we didn’t get to see it. We did go to a casino where I had an absolutely awful Bloody Mary. Seriously, who makes a clear Bloody Mary? Sacrilege!

The next morning, we decided to go to Tahoe City on the California side of the lake. I love small lake/beach towns, so exploring the sights, and taking in the fresh air (and real trees) was a much needed break before we started the second day of the event.

Everything went well, Michael Bolton performed for the evening’s entertainment, and as the event closed down for the evening, I actually got to chat with Michael for a moment, where we got into a nice discussion about our appreciation of Ray Charles. And this also happened at the last second:

Bolton and I (Not from Office Space or Game of Thrones).

Bolton and I (Not from Office Space or Game of Thrones).

The following morning was brutal as we had to be up at 5:00 A.M. to catch a 6:00 A.M. flight. Added to this was a birthday party to attend right after I landed. Despite my best efforts, I sort of short circuited, began to hallucinate from lack of sleep, and had to call the day.

As the next few weeks passed, I ended my second job, then back to California with Jen, where we went to Disneyland. I can’t believe it’s been a year and a half since my last visit, which is an obscenely long time for me. Still, it was the 60th anniversary, and we had fun.

Following the footsteps.

Following the footsteps.

Two days of theme parkery was a lot of fun, but I was taken aback on how expensive the park is. It’s no longer the jaunty day trip that I knew from my California days. It’s more of a planned vacation event, which makes me a little sad. Disney needs to settle down on their price hikes.

Still, you can’t beat the view….

60 years....

60 years….

Or the Paint the Night parade, which basically merges Disney with art cars from Burning Man.

What a funny girl, that Belle....

What a funny girl, that Belle….

On the following Sunday, we marked off another bucket list item: The Gentle Barn. It’s an animal sanctuary that takes in abused, neglected, abandoned, and overworked animals, emotionally and physically heals them, then just lets them hang out and simply… be animals. Some of the stories are so sad, like this little blind pig named Sydney:

Sydney the Pig.

Sydney the Pig.

He had a pretty rough life and was given up on, but he was just casually bumbling around nudging his tray in case more food was there. There were all sorts of animals, and human and animal alike were in the same spot just interacting together. It was admittedly moving.

It takes all kinds.

It takes all kinds.

Besides, where else are you going to be able to hug a cow?

Buttercup.

Buttercup.

This has been an interesting summer for me. Outside of my car breaking down and the struggle to get it running again, two full jobs and the struggle to get it down to just one, trying to plan a wedding, trying to plan my birthday gathering next month, trying to remain sane through everything, I can’t help but feel that I’ve learned a lot. Mostly about the things I’ve seen and experienced, and what I want to be. What really matters to me. Where my purpose lies. I’ve had some opportunities to reconnect with parts of my earlier days, in projects I can’t discuss just quite yet, and something of a settling within myself, and there has been some internal struggle along the way. Fear of compromising my dreams, mostly. But mostly… mostly is just comes down to the want to try and be a good man, until I won’t have to simply try anymore and will simply be. Stepping outside the routine is good, if only for a little while, and especially with a few new adventures under my belt.

It’s nice to be reminded that I have a few good stories left in me.

A Month of Reconnection.

When I wrote my last post, I had made the declaration that I was going to seek out what makes me happy. And now that August has come to an end, I think I had a pretty high success rate overall. It ranged from little things such as seeing shows like Rock of Ages at the Venetian, to larger things like finally paying off my car once and for all.

But I wanted to go bigger. More meaningful. More personal, but with a twist of larger than life? And what better way to do the latter than meeting William Shatner?

KIickin' it with the Shat.

Kickin’ it with the Shat.

I’m not going to lie: I’ve wanted to meet William Shatner since I was a little kid, and while I have passed/missed the opportunity for years on end, I decided that this was going to be the year it was going to happen. So Jen and I went to the Star Trek Convention in Las Vegas, and to paraphrase that other Captain: We made it so.

As I was leaving, I told him that he was one of my heroes, which he took graciously enough. And that was true. The man has enjoyed an incredible career, and he’s still just cruising along and enjoying his life in his 80′s. I could only be as fortunate.

And in a bit of the random, we also met Will and Holly from Land of the Lost, and they too were just really nice people.

Guy, Jen, Will and Holly....

Guy, Jen, Will and Holly….

A few more days of waiting in between, and I was finally able to take a long overdue vacation and get the Hell out of Dodge. Or Vegas, in this case. Regardless, I had to escape town for a few days.

The drive over there was fraught with peril. while I can spin a good yarn with dramatic emphasis from time to time, the drive over to our first destination sucked. While still in New Mexico, we had to get the two front tires fixed as they were about to blow out. Upon hitting the state line, we hadn’t even driven in Texas for one physical minute when there were already five churches back to back, along with a sign claiming in huge letters how much they hate Obama. Welcome home indeed.

While that was more notable and amusing, the rest of the drive wasn’t. As long as I live, I shall never solely use phone GPS again to navigate cross-country. In an attempt to be “helpful”, it rerouted us every time we took a gas, food, or pee break, putting us on every possible backroad it could find. From New Mexico to Austin, Texas, we never hit one single highway. And the road itself were full of wandering deer that had no issue whatsoever stepping in front of your car. A few minutes later, a police officer pulled us over for having our brights on. As we sat and traded info., we collectively realized that GPS had added an extra four hours to our trip, thanks to these stupid back farm roads. He felt sorry for us as we explained what happened. Upon getting to Austin, we nearly lost our room as they have to have people check in at a certain time, and you guessed it: That was well over four hours ago. We told the same story, and he also felt sorry for us, giving us a room after all.

We crashed hard that night.

Austin itself was an interesting place. Among the many things we did, we visited the Cathedral of Junk:

Cathedral entrance.

Cathedral entrance.

This was a two-story Burning Man style structure made out of all kinds of trash, scrap metal, and assorted refuse… in someone’s backyard. You would never know it was there as you passed through the residential area, but expert sleuthing skills found the place, and it’s massive.

Other places of interest we found were the Salt Lick Ranch, with contestably the best barbecue I have ever eaten in my life.

A feast of meats.

A feast of meats.

Found the house of Lord British (aka Richard Garriott of Ultima fame):

Quest for the Avatar.

Quest for the Avatar.

The house has all kinds castle related things, from secret passages to observatories.

I also went on Austin’s Bat Cruise, where one bridge on Congress Street houses over a million bats that all fly out at dusk.

The Bat Signal.

The Bat Signal.

Batdance.

Batdance.

We went to 6th Street, once completed, than began to travel to New Orleans.

Bayou Country.

Bayou Country.

New Orleans is perhaps one of the most magical cities that I’ve visited in these United States. Unlike the manufactured feel of Vegas, everything feels real and alive here. The city itself is as old as it can be, founded on the stories of pirates, aristocrats, jazz, and voodoo, and it all blends perfectly here, from the neighborhoods to Bourbon Street.

The Magical City.

The Magical City.

And that goes for the food and the drink here as well. If you’re not eating, you’re drinking anything from coffee to hurricanes. Music is always playing somewhere. People are hustling. Some poor wretch is invariably in a corner somewhere for not handling his alcohol. But it makes for good times.

Jazz.

Jazz.

Steamboats.

Steamboats.

Above ground cemeteries.

Above ground cemeteries.

We were only able to stay one day due to our hectic schedule, and I could have easily stayed more. From ghost tours to muffalettas, it remains one of my favorite cities.

But we had to make time to drive over to Florida. And you know, that in itself is not a bad thing at all.

Home again.

Home again.

I was born and raised in Texas, but Florida retains a soft spot in my heart. I lived there in the early 1980′s. I well know the beach, the food, and a few other non-touristy and personal places. And for that reason, I found myself going home deeper than I ever could have imagined.

I still remember where my Grandmother, Mother and I lived while my Grandfather was sick. I was five years old, and despite it being a sad time with him passing away, my being so young remembered it as more than just that. I lived a life of beaches and Pac-Man, and playing in our little home. And on return trips, I’ve found myself driving past looking at the place where I once knew, yet would never know again.

And yet…

At Jen’s prompting, I found myself at the door, ringing the doorbell. A friendly looking lady answered. “Hi. Um, this is going to sound weird….” I began, relaying the story of my life in what is now her house. At the end of my story, she blinked for a moment before opening the door wider. “Why don’t you come inside”, she said.

I found myself in a home I thought I would never see again. There were changes, yes, but there was familiarity. Moreso than I expected, and a flood of memories washed over me as I walked around. My grandparent’s room, my Mother’s room….

My room.

For the first time in 32 years, I stood inside my childhood bedroom. The furniture was different, but everything else was the same. It was a gentle feeling, but I also felt the pang of loss of my Mother and Grandparents. And my Dad as well. I could feel my eyes beginning to water, but it wasn’t entirely sadness. There was a feeling of gratitude for that life lived, and for one moment, with a stranger being kind to this stranger, I got to touch it again.

Jen and I talked a little more, then wished her well, promising to send photos of my time there. We also got this photo:

The path of memories.

The path of memories.

After we left, I decided to track down my old school, Little Flower.

I graduated kindergarten in 1982 there, you know:

The old days.

The old days.

And yet, with another “Hi. Um, this is going to sound weird….”, I found myself with another reunion:

The new days.

The new days.

During our remaining time in Pensacola….

Pensacola Lighthouse.

Pensacola Lighthouse.

We climbed all 177 steps of this beast.

Fishies!

Fishies!

Ate ridiculously fresh fish every single day.

The last night.

The last night.

And watched the sunset from the beach.

After the next morning’s sunrise, we drove back into Texas to have a small family reunion with my Uncle, my sister, and her kids. It’s been since 2008-2009 since I’ve seen them, and although the trip was long, seeing them was worth it.

The drive back was about as random as it could get:

In which I really did wait a cotton picking minute.

In which I really did wait a cotton picking minute.

Still no basement in the Alamo.

Still no basement in the Alamo.

The UFO Museum of Roswell, New Mexico.

The UFO Museum of Roswell, New Mexico.

Walter White's House, I presume.

Walter White’s House, I presume.

And the roadtrip, while over perhaps too soon to properly process it all, was exactly what I needed.

I may still be on my own quest for happiness. I was on social media less, and chose to make my memories though photos. I made an effort (and did so) to meet one of my heroes. I reconnected with my past, my childhood, and the parts that I sometimes forget to in my present due to work, or something else in my constant schedule. I needed to remind myself where I began. I did new things. Went new places. Connected with people that I had never met before. I took time out to watch a sunset and a sunrise. I hadn’t done that since Burning Man. I realize that I had simply forgotten to live my life, and along the way, the jarring loss of Robin Williams reminded me that laughter is perhaps a gift that we often take for granted in our day to day lives.

I don’t suppose that every month will be like August. “Responsibility”, for all of its benefits, can also be a very ugly word in those times when it is all you are able to focus on.

With a clearer head, and a coming break from my own storms, I think it will be time to move forward again myself. That part isn’t totally clear yet, but I have a better idea of what I do want… and what I don’t.

“The Month of Happy” is going to have be extended. Indefinitely, I think, until I reach the place where I truly want to be.

As With Everything Else….

Life never provides a dull moment.

Between house remodeling, finding new gigs, adjusting to my strange schedule, and trying to figure out the best way to help some friends through difficult times, the (very slow) turn to Spring has made for a lot of “on the go” activity.

That’s not to say that it’s all been work and errands. Stepping back out into the world invariably leads to more unusual adventures, and that all started with a beard.

Due to my early acting work in Westerns and pirate films (thus compounding the need to be perpetually hairy and dirty all the time), I gained the uncanny ability to grow a beard at will. While that may not be 100% true (tall tales are part of my original Texas heritage, after all), this clip with Homer from an early episode of The Simpsons is a pretty accurate representation of my daily grooming habits:

So four days in, I had a full beard grown out just in time to audition for Spamalot.

Monty Python and the Holy Grail (and British comedy in general) was one of my earliest and most prolific comedy inspirations. The thought of galloping to coconuts and hacking limbs off of the Black Knight was far too appealing, and so away I went.

Still no word as of yet, but I suppose I could find comfort in becoming “Sir Not Appearing In This Show” if the “wait and see” aspect continues on to the upcoming weekend. “Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life”, and all that.

As for the rest of the previous weekend, the Missus and I went Downtown to check out the Life Cube Project, and Burning Man influenced art project that is set to (what else) burn at the end of the month.

Gleaming The Cube.

Gleaming The Cube.

On the way over to the Cube, however, we witnessed this old man just collapse and fall over at a bus stop. Two passengers helped him to his feet while I called 911, as the man did not seem fully aware of his surroundings or where he lived. After everyone else left, we stayed with him until an ambulance arrived. It was possible that he was on something, but he certainly wasn’t in a position to get or a bus, or anywhere else. We finally made it to the Cube after that little side adventure.

Guy2.

Guy2.

My work schedule has been busier. I was to work a convention this last week, and did so on Monday. The client was weird, as they wanted me around, yet wanted nothing to do with me, and wearing a giant costume, you need someone to keep tabs on you to make sure that you don’t overheat or get manhandled by drunken conventioneers. While it was supposed to be a week, it was abruptly cut down to one day. Honestly, I was okay with that.

And for a blast from the past moment, a video game company called me asking if I wanted to get back into video game testing. I was torn. Despite being out of the industry for nearly a decade now, there will still always be a part of me that misses it, and would love to be back in that lifestyle again. But testing as a job can be somewhat thankless and expendable in the wrong company, as my time at Midway was bittersweet. Texas was an overall better experience, but when I worked the San Diego office, there was a fair share of hazing and bullying involved that never should have happened. That’s not to say that I didn’t appreciate the friends I had at that branch, though. It just wasn’t enough to keep me from getting shown the door and returning back to the job every ten minutes due to one of the little cliques taking a personal dislike of me (One episode I titled “The Pizza Stand-Off” was a “classic” moment). I’m over the experience now, but the treatment did hurt back then.

Coincidentally enough after the job interview had been made, I ended up having a small reunion with a group of my San Diego alumni earlier in the week.

The Old Gang.

The Old Gang.

We talked, laughed a lot, destroyed sushi and sake bombs, caught up about current life and “the old days”, and of course, the thoughts of a return to the game grid. Who better to ask for advice than old colleagues who were in the trenches alongside you? The prospect was tempting. There’s still a part of me that is tempted, and it’s a completely different company. And I’m deeply flattered that they asked me. But I’ve also done a lot of things with my life in the last ten years. I moved on. And it was a reminder that some events and places happen for a reason. Even if it’s not for the actual purpose that prompted you to take on the experience in the first place, it’s the memories made and the people you meet that become the true milestone reached.

Ten years later, I can still say that I have all of this:

Pay no attention to all the bottles on the table.

Pay no attention to all the bottles on the table.

I think I came out better for it in the long run.

I’m Still Here!

Contrary to what may be popular belief, I haven’t fallen off the face of the Earth. Nay, I’ve been busier than ever these days. Which is why I wanted to take a moment and write now before work sweeps me away again.

Mostly, it’s been writing assignments and booze pourings taking up all my free time, and as a freelancer, it’s the continuous hustle to keep that almighty dollar in my wallet. That’s not to say that I haven’t has a little fun.

For starters, I went to Disneyland for my friend Sam’s birthday. He, his friend Traci and I spent two days in California going over to Huntington Beach, then to Disneyland proper and California Adventure.

On the beach....

On the beach….

Whee....

Whee….

Photo blasted on Star Tours.

Photo blasted on Star Tours.

I take sudden, multi-level drops well.

I take sudden, multi-level drops well.

We got up at 6:30 in the morning, and didn’t end until 1:00 the next morning…. Then drove back right after. It was a bit of a painful drive, but it was also a fantastic day of clearing through almost every ride, tiki bars, and a lot of high-spirited hijinks. The higher the jink, the more I approved.

But it was mostly back to work. I did a gaming expo convention where my main role was to pour booze for convention goers that came into our area. The event itself was okay, as it was basically a free bar for customers, and I got to sample more than a few fair shares of some pretty tasty food in the surrounding area.

All of this led into my birthday. As far as birthdays go, this one was pretty decent.

Little man.  Big eating.

Little man. Big eating.


I had a great birthday dinner, a lot of well wishings and visits from friend, no police boats….

I even got this as a gift from Jen:

Adventure Time!

Adventure Time!

Is that not greatness? Now I just have to find a wall to put that on.

And then I got sick.

A few days after, fortunately. That grand plague that seems to be sweeping the nation and affecting my friends and family everywhere. My sniffling, sneezing, snuffling miasma of head phlegm and wickedness took me down for a few days, yet I really couldn’t take a break. I ended up doing another booze pouring at the local Air Force Base, which was well into the midst of our current idiotic government shutdown. But booze waits for no budget or healthcare resolve, and one of my greater acting roles was placed in front of me: Pretend I was wanting to be other places besides curled into my bed with some tissue, knockout level cough syrup, and my 3DS. Still, I had to check out what they have for a shopping center. Who knew Gamestops were on military bases?

The rest of the weekend continued with me providing counseling to this stranger at an Applebee’s that had just broken up with his girlfriend. I felt like crap, but I couldn’t just sit there and let the man cry into his drink all by himself. He warmed to the idea of someone actually taking the time to talk to him, though management acted like he was a problem, and kept wanting him to leave. I’ve seen obnoxious drunks. This guy just wanted a friendly ear, and I couldn’t begrudge him that.

The following Sunday, I agreed to take my friend Brenda to a wedding at Floyd Lamb Park. While I wasn’t going to the ceremony, I decided to stay and check the place out. It was originally a divorce ranch for people to stay at as Nevada only had a six week minimum to stay married before they could annul their nuptials. The place itself was really nice, what with the lakes and big trees and old buildings. And I even got to crash the wedding reception. Far funnier as I was coming off of my cold still, and since I hadn’t planned to stay, I didn’t really clean up, with my Florida beach bar T-shirt, unshaven face, and sandals. I looked more ready for a day of sandcastles and rum drinks than the celebration of one’s union. The bride and groom were remarkable sports, and I wished them well on their happy day as I got more than a few once over glances at my casual appearance. In my defense, their buffet was excellent.

Despite my need to write, I also had Gina and Alex stop by for the weekend, and I even ended up back in Laughlin again for a brief visit. Not a bad little place. I’ve heard they do inner-tube regatta there, and that sounds marvelously fun.

Otherwise, it’s been writing and celebrating birthdays. It’s been everywhere from back out to Pahrump, where some drunk old woman tried to get me to molest her (to which I more than politely declined) to the Las Vegas Burlesque Festival, showcasing a three hour run of boobs and other assorted talents.

So that’s been life these days, and I expect the next few days to remain just as hectic. Either I am really busy, or work just dries up for weeks at a time. In any case, I suppose I should trade one form of writing for another.

Chicken and Scam Artists.

So 2013 started pretty normally….

Okay, actually, it didn’t. With a new year begun, I was on my way to see my friend Chanel who had rolled into town… and was promptly pulled over by the cops. For holding my cell phone.

As of this year, Nevada is completely “hands off” touching your phone. As in… at all. I was even sitting at a stop light fully parked, so they take it serious. I’m telling all of you this now so you don’t have to go through what I did.

But spending time with Chanel was nice. We hadn’t really seen each other since Kristin’s wedding, so it was really good to catch up over drinks and a nice lunch before they went home.

Chanel and I.

Chanel and I.

It was shortly after that I got called to various work gigs. With CES back in town, I was hired to be a driver for YouTube to take all of their execs and partners back and forth from the Strips hotel scene to the Convention Center. I was supposed to see one of my cousins while he was in town for the show, but it never happened due to timing. After that, it was straight to work for Miss America.

There he is....

There he is….

Unlike Miss USA, America is more of a “girls only” event, meaning that they usually don’t ask men to be part of the standard production, but through recommendation and reputation, I got on. Back to Planet Hollywood, as always. The humor was not lost on me that first morning as the stage manager told us to not even bother talking to the beauty contestants as there is nothing to be gained from it. At that point, all of my stand-in colleagues turned and looked directly at me with a very knowing look. “What? I haven’t done anything”, I whispered back, as I tried my best to hide my amusement over the comment, mentally disagreeing with that thought.

But the show went well, albeit quickly, with no majorly outstanding stories or adventures. If anything, it was just a fast, pleasant day of work.

The gang.

The gang.

It was just as well. Destiny was once again calling and the real matter of my January adventures was now clear to me.

So.  Much.  Chicken.

So. Much. Chicken.

I would go to Wing Bowl.

Wing Bowl is a chicken wing eating contest that was offering preliminary rounds at various bars and pubs until the culmination of the finals at the South Point Casino. I decided that if I was to do this, I would need a wing man of my own.

In this case, a wing woman.

Cue Sarah Jane.

After all, who better to join me after her epic spaghetti eating contest back in 2011?

So we began our eating adventure. The rules were simple: Eat as many chicken wings as you could in a 5 minute period. So away I went.

Even from the beginning, I knew I was out of my league.

Even from the beginning, I knew I was out of my league.

Don’t get my wrong: I love eating chicken wings. But I’m also a slow eater, and shoveling that much food down my gullet at once was overwhelming.

Mmm.... Greasy.

Mmm…. Greasy.

I didn’t think such a thing as “Chicken Madness” was a real thing, but I was being overpowered.

Chomp, chew, bite, pow ("Pow"?)....

Chomp, chew, bite, pow (“Pow”?)….

Make it stop....

Make it stop….

In 5 minutes, I ate 16, which is pretty good I think for someone who has never attempted this before.

Sarah Jane went up:

Go, WonderHussy, go!

Go, WonderHussy, go!

She did 15. Her vegan(!) friend Tanayaa managed to finished down 8. It was a greasy, wing-filled experience, but none of us came close to the 36 wings some guy ate.

The spoils go to the victors.  Or just being spoiled.  It was a lot of chicken.

The spoils go to the victors. Or just being spoiled. It was a lot of chicken.

I swore off chicken for a while after that.

My last gig of the month was with some “talent” agency that I’ve avoided for a few years due to their reputation, but I decided to work with them again for a bartending gig. I figured that it had been a few years, and I did have some booze pouring experience.

It was a convention party/event at the World Market Center. I showed up on time, set up, did my thing, and in the last hour, they dismissed me a little early. Nothing seemingly nefarious as the party was winding down, and they were being friendly about it. Three hours later, however, the agency sent me this nasty e-mail saying how I “greatly offended” the CEO of this furniture company because I wanted to look up the right measurements for a gin and tonic. As a result, the agency was refusing to pay me. I didn’t realize accuracy and wanting to provide good customer service was such a controversial issue, but the point stood that this scam of an agency basically skipped off without paying me. And they still e-mail me job offers all the time after this! If I can find a way to put a stop to this bad business practice, I am open to suggestions.

2013 was already setting up a weird tone. What I didn’t realize at the time is how off it was going to be….

Police Boats.

Getting back to the “Real World” post-Burning Man takes a little more effort than expected.

After a week of “oontz oontz” dubstep, sandstorms, no real concept of time, and living in a tent, normal things such as clean clothes, showers, and stores that don’t require you to climb a three-story scaffolding for “payment” takes its own getting used to.

The big thing when I got home was getting my rental car clean again. It was caked with dirt, and conventional washing doesn’t quite work. The alkaline dust really does stick to everything, and standard soap and water doesn’t cut it. It took three professional cleanings to get the car looking back to normal before I could present it to the rental place. Otherwise, the car looked like it had run rampant through a sandcastle convention.

When I got back, it was time for a paranormal investigation with my ghost group. Some private residence. I’m still mixed as to if anything was really in the house, but there was a weird theory that the family’s kid might have been the ghost. Seriously. The kid’s room was utterly immaculate like a shrine, and no pictures of the kid were posted past 2006-2007. If it hadn’t been for the kid having the latest version of Halo on his computer, that little factoid would be have been more creepy than any ghost.

Other than that, I was covering more shows, such as The Mentalist, and Divas with Frank Marino:

The Mentalist.

The Mentalist.

Divas.

Divas.

I also went to the pre-opening of Goretorium at Planet Hollywood. It was meant as more of a “private” event, but the word got out on Facebook, and everyone showed up.

Eli Roth's Goretorium.

Eli Roth’s Goretorium.

That in itself caused drama, as they started turning people away, and there was a few fake review related scandals associated with the place. I did, however, manage to get past the red velvet rope and go inside for a free tour of the place.

He'll never get a leg up like that.

He’ll never get a leg up like that.

The haunt was pretty interesting, all things considered. After working a few of these haunts now, I’m used to how these things go, and it was done well enough, and honestly, the Strip needs something “themed” after they closed down Star Trek a few years back.

Everything is zombies these days, I tell you.

Everything is zombies these days, I tell you.

But it was alright. I think the prices need to be adjusted, and having a unisex bathroom is a little awkward for those unprepared, but trust me, after a week out in the desserts of Black Rock, very little phases you after that.

Speaking of which, there was a “Burner” related event (anything in quotes this entry should be met with skepticism, I learned) at the end of the month out at a place called Kingman Wash. On my birthday, no less. It was supposed to be what they call a “decompression” (this one is okay; it’s merely terminology). Decoms are a way for Burners to kind of blend in a little more of the free-wheeling kooky back into their lives after going from one extreme of fire spinning and art cars to the more subdued day to day of jobs, responsibilities, etc. Decoms are there to provide a little middle ground in case your mind and heart are still not mentally ready or able to leave “home”. My experience overall was good, so a chance to play with my friends for another night sounded just fine.

My view from the tent.

My view from the tent.

The feds came.

A lot of feds came.

And it wasn’t the 4-5 ranger SUVS, there were police boats. A lot of them. And they wanted everyone out right that second. So it was a bunch of people stumbling around in the dark, rushed, and some not in the best of mental states to even be attempting tear-down. But tear-down was going to happen regardless, as the red and blue lights resonated from the police boats, and the loudspeakers blared to get everyone out. Turned out, the whole thing was set up without any previous authorization from the park lands, so it was all a big “no no”, and it was time to get out before potential arrests were made. With no gas in the car and pitch black, the escape was made.

Happy birthday to me….

So in getting there, setting the tent up on a nice little hillside overlooking the lake, cooking dinner, getting a few drinks, dancing with friends, and just ready to have a fun night out on my birthday….

Burners and Buddies, Flav and Banjos.

First Friday is always a good way to start out the month in Vegas.

With more recent changes to First Friday since Zappos has gotten more involved in the Downtown community, themes were becoming more prevalent for each month. And for this month, the theme was a mini Burning Man style event.

Burning Man, for the uninitiated, is an event that is best eased into, rather than going without any sort of preparation or understanding. Its attitude and way of doing things could be a little overwhelming for the neophyte sort, so I wanted to see what this more “public friendly” version was about. My inklings of the event came from many conversations with Sarah Jane, and a documentary on Netflix called Burning Man: Beyond Black Rock.

Being new to the event (or “Virgin”, as first-timers are called), I figured it was either one of two things: An event of music, art, and creative ideas in a week-long city out in the middle of nowhere, or an excuse for unwashed hippies to get stoned out of their gourds (which I saw a lot in Kauai).

Then again, there’s also the whole adage of that you can find what you want to take out of it. For me, I want to go with a camera and my journal to document the the week-long experience. So I wanted to experience the experience, and actually check it out this year. But of all times, the event decided to hold this ridiculous “lottery” that doesn’t sound like it benefits anyone outside of the really lucky to randomly score one.

The event was starting with a rock opera of sorts talking all about the Burning Man experience for the hipsters and stroller crowds (probably the closest they would ever get to the experience). Sarah Jane was participating in the spectacle, so I went early to show my support.

Lucky Lady Lucy.

Lucky Lady Lucy.

Little did I know the role this sign would play in my life.

Little did I know the role this sign would play in my life.

I needn’t have worried about showing up early, however, everything was at least an hour and a half behind schedule. So 6:00 became 7:30, and so on. At 8:15, they were supposed to burn the Vegas version of “The Man” (called “Lucky Lady Lucy”), but that was pretty behind schedule as well. In the meantime, I amused myself by randomly running into groups of friends all night, and checking out some of the art cars:

Cars like these are a pretty common sight on the Playa.

Cars like these are a pretty common sight on the Playa.

The Dancetronauts' carship.

The Dancetronauts’ carship.

The plus side was that as the night wore on, people got pissed about the delay and left, meaning that by the time they lit the thing, I was up at the middle front to capture some pictures.

Lucy burns.

Lucy burns.

This was all well and good, but one of the big highlights for me was the performance of the Dancetronauts.

A little known factoid about me is that I do love a good dance party/rave. I’m not out there tripping with butterfly wings, but I like the colors and the energy, and I’ve had weird places to experience dance parties: From hidden warehouses in Deep Ellum, to Sega’s booth at E3 in 2000 (thank you, Space Channel 5), to the ElecTRONica event held the previous year at California Adventure. And I’ve been to some unique venues. Dancetronauts were comparable:

Lift-off to funk.

Lift-off to funk.

Yes, they have a hovering spaceship car. And lots of fire.

The mobile stage.

The mobile stage.

I was only going to stay a little while, but ended up staying the whole performance, and I’m like a moth to bright colors and thumping, danceable beats. They were absolutely freaking awesome, and the night made for one of the best First Fridays that I’ve attended.

A few days later, Danny and some of his family came into town. Being the good host that I am to my friends, I joined up with several of their adventures. I wasn’t, however, expecting martini lunches:

Vegas, baby!

Vegas, baby!

I met up with them at the Mirage at the Revolution Lounge, where Kelly (Danny’s Father-in-law) was treating people to sidecars all day. I foolishly did not each lunch, and by my third sidecar…. I excused myself to the bathroom, *ahem* lost at least one drink from my system, and then had a rather unremarkable sandwich before being “good” enough to go home. I slept for over 5 hours, then back out the door at 12:30 last night, to not get back until 3 A.M.

Down at the El Cortez.

Down at the El Cortez.

It was a whirlwind of a day, and I was fortunate enough to not feel any effects the next morning (outside of an “Ohmygod drinking” mumble as I got out of bed, but the “sidecar escapade” cured me from further libations that evening, and the next week or so after that.

But Spring was coming, and I was ready for whatever the rest of the month had planned for me.

Junie tries to hide during a vet checkup.

Junie tries to hide during a vet checkup.

I wasn’t expecting a dead body, however.

Someone did a hit and run right in front of the Museum, and getting into work was an awkward and uncomfortable experience. Fortunately, they caught the driver who bolted, and charged him appropriately.

As for the rest of my night, I had to review David Copperfield at the MGM, so I got to sit front and center to watch David’s act. Even up close, the things he was doing were untraceable and amazing. I even got to meet him after the show for a private meet and greet:

My hair is doing the "Superman" thing, and I don't know why.

My hair is doing the “Superman” thing, and I don’t know why.

Upon leaving, “The Spirit of Adventure”(TM) twinged at the back of my head like a twisted Jiminy Cricket and forced me to remember that Flavor Flav had opened up his new chicken place: “Flavor Flav House of Flavor”.

Love that chicken!

Love that chicken!

The line for chicken.

The line for chicken.

The line was crazy long, but bearable. While waiting, the staff handed out free cornbread and copies of his autobiography. The real draw was that it was rumored that Flav himself was cooking in the kitchen.

And you know what? He totally was:

You know what time it is!

You know what time it is!

It took three hours from getting in line to when we got our food. During that wait, Flav was perhaps one of the nicest, most gracious celebrities I’ve ever met. He came out, talked, posed for photos, signed autographs, joked around, but man that guy was a hard-working juggernaut in the kitchen. You would think he would sit back and let his staff handle the cooking duties. Nope. He was first and foremost in the kitchen, only coming out during prep breaks to apologize about the wait, and to let us know how genuinely appreciative he was for everyone being so patient and waiting, and that included getting down to the last order perfect. “If anyone were to get a raw piece of chicken”, he said, “you can come up and punch me in the face.”

I actually got to talk to him for a bit, and he’s super cool. Being one of the last ten customers, he gave us this special card for the wait that honestly, I have no idea what it will do when I present it. But as it hit past midnight (the next day was his birthday), I wished him Happy Birthday, and thanked him for all of his hard work. To that, he stopped, came over to me, and the night ended as any truly great story should:

And world peace reigned forever more.

And world peace reigned forever more.

With a handshake.

Back at work, I was allowed to deliver a baby shark in the Marine Gallery, as the shark eggs that we had at the Museum were due to hatch. It was actually pretty cool since it was premature, and I had to cut the egg, and *plop* the little guy into a little tub of water.

And then the American Country Music Awards happened.

Country artists are a different sort, and this applies to these types of shows. Everything is more laid back and friendly, and more often than not, the stars are polite, funny, will actually engage you in some light conversation, and want you to have fun and get into their music, encouraging us to cut loose a little, or laugh when we do. For example, I caught Hillary Scott of Lady Antebellum singing a Justin Beiber lyric, to which I narrowed my eyes at her, and said “I can’t believe you just ‘Beiberized’ it”, shaking my head at her. She just giggled that I had caught her in the act.

The highlight, however, was the Rascal Flatts performance. I was half-listening to the warm up, when my friend Karen pointed out the banjo player to me:

It was Steve Martin.

Yes, the Steve Martin, in which I nearly lost it. I don’t get starstruck often, but he’s a legend to me, and I wanted to tackle hug him for being The Jerk. But then I was merely blown away by how awesome of a banjo player he turned out to be, which caused my respect for him to go even higher. As far as the day went, nothing else could top that experience. Here’s to you, Johnson, Navin R., you typical bastard!

And it wasn’t over yet….

Iguanas and Ghosts.

After a quiet January, I was led into a much stranger February, with the usual penchant for adventures.

I went to an audition for a print ad for the Monte Carlo Casino, where I did the usual headshot/resume thing. They asked me to tell something interesting/crazy about myself.

I guess they were expecting one of those “This one time, I had too much to drink and I….” stories, but I just shrugged, and offered: “well, the first time I went to the Grand Canyon I discovered a dead body….”

They looked absolutely stunned, and told me that was definitely crazy. And I got the job.

Before the shoot took place, I had other adventures going on in the form of doing a little bit of paranormal investigation at the Museum.

The Museum, being in the area where Vegas was supposedly first settled, has had its share of stories, and in some cases, unexplainable phenomena. So the Ghost Anomaly Research Project (or G.A.R.P.) was called in.

As far as the teams went, there were eight of them, and Charlsey and I making up the Museum employees. So after giving a brief tour and some of the rundowns of the various weird things that happen at the Museum, we split into two groups of five.

Let me tell you now: The Museum is super creepy in the pitch black of the night, and as the hours passed, it never got comfortable. Al those rooms of Egyptian artifacts, robot dinosaurs, and several rooms full of taxidermed animals adds to the unsettling factor. Even the sharks were more active at night.

My team started in the African gallery. We were packed with EMF devices, night vision cameras, and a scanner that read through AM stations backwards that is said to pick up spirit voices. Granted, it’s not like a full-on conversation. It’s basically snippets of words, like overhearing someone in a busy restaurant.

In that room, we attempted to initiate conversation. One of the girls asked if there was anyone there, so which the scanner blurted out a “yes”. When she asked how many people were in the room, the device said “seven”, and two dots appeared on a separate device. Bear in mind no one was touching anything. And some things, like names were getting repeated to raise issues about the coincidental nature of it all.

The Museum is located next to an old Mormon fort that dates back to the Civil War times. From the conversation had, supposedly, there was a five year old Mormon boy named Robbie that didn’t know where he was, or the year it was, but was killed by his Father in a stream. There’s a nearby stream separating the Museum and the fort, and a spring that goes under the Museum.

I took pictures and got… something that was incredibly bright, like a track light about the lion and zebra. But there’s no light there, and the paint isn’t glossy or reflective.

Spooky orbs.

Spooky orbs.

At one of the investigator’s suggestion, I downloaded a Ghost Radar on my phone, an app that basically looks like the motion tracker from Aliens, and is capable of spouting out words similar to the scanner. In the boiler room, another investigator had his app going, and while the two programs did their own independent thing, they started syncing up with similar words. His would say “Texas”, and mine would say “cowboy”. And then the signals started perfectly matching with number, intensity, and location. It was the only time it did this all night.

There were other weird things. Knocks would appear from walls that shouldn’t, and no one was standing by. Charlsey mentioned that one of the back phones that never rings rang around 12:30 to a dead line, and then did the same at another phone up front.

My team started getting weird electrical pulses in the women’s bathroom, and the men’s room wasn’t much better. As we left the room, we hear a male voice say two words. I was the only man on my team, and the other two guys were way downstairs, and it wasn’t their voice. We went up to the front, and as we returned by the Nevada gallery, we heard full talking. One of the videos had turned on by itself and was playing. When we investigated the room, one of the scanners, repeatedly displayed the word “beware”, and then a ton of signals started popping up.

Foreboding hallways.

Foreboding hallways.

Hard to say what the results were from the night, but my interest was definitely piqued. I resolved myself that I wanted to do the “ghost hunting” thing again.

As for the modeling gig at the Monte Carlo, the time had come to do the shoot.

It was a weird set-up. They didn’t seem exactly sure when my call time was, which started out in the middle of the night, then after waiting for a while, got shifted to early in the morning. It was a fun piece, having to work with a giant iguana known as “Mister”. Then again, “Mister”, no matter how gentle he was, managed to claw my arms and face a few times, so makeup had to be applied to cover up the now bloodied areas.

Meeting "Mister".

Meeting “Mister”.

Truth be told, I don’t know what happened with this gig. The photos from the other characters were published, but mine never appeared. I contacted the casino, the advertising agency, my agency, whoever I could, and no one had a clue to to what happened with my photos, or where they went, so they never got published outside of a few outtakes.

The promo that sorta kinda never was.

The promo that sorta kinda never was.

After all this, I did another mascot thing for a trade show, where I wasn’t familiar at all with the character I was playing, but man, was he popular with the tech crowd. They knew and loved this guy.

It was like a small apartment in there.

It was like a small apartment in there.

While the gig itself was easy, I was in the early stages of coming down with a cold, and t he temp assigned to be my handler was… unusual. He had an aversion to helping me, as he told me that he “didn’t want to touch another man”, like one touch would somehow render us into a permanent domestic partnership. This left me usually having to navigate myself.

But I pegged him from the start that there was something “off” with him. He was so super eager to please, even if it meant dropping everything (me) to accommodate a convention goer. I think he was looking for additional employment opportunities outside this job, as he repeatedly kept saying that he needed more work. He had a tendency to repeat the same stories over and over and over.

The second day we were there, the client wanted to put the little characters on video. They had wanted me to hold a laptop or an iPad, but I had to politely decline, saying that my arms couldn’t reach far enough to be able to hold the laptop with both hands, and the gloves didn’t provide me enough of a grip to securely hold the computer or iPad in my hands. I didn’t want to drop or damage their equipment, and they agreed we shouldn’t try it. My handler found that unacceptable, and started yanking my arms hard trying to force me to reach to grab the computer. The clients again declined when they realized that the guy pulling on me was causing me pain. My handler snapped at me that I should have done what they wanted. It’s not that I didn’t want to. I just physically couldn’t in the suit. No one was angry about it, save for my handler.

After awhile, he just got to the point where he would just leave me for extended periods of time, which is like the first rule of “bad” behavior for his position, due to the fact that performers can overheat in the costume, people have a strange attraction to hassling/fighting mascots, and the fact that I couldn’t see or move easily to save my life. He would go to fetch buttons and t-shirts for show-goers, and then walk the convention floor looking for them, so these weren’t “fast” strolls by any means.

The last day, we were back in the client’s media lounge again, for whatever reason, my handler still apparently took it personal that I couldn’t hold the computer from the day before. He started telling multiple employees of the client that the only reason I didn’t hold the computer from the day before is that I just didn’t want to try (again, not true). People weren’t bringing the issue up. He was stopping them to volunteer this to people. During one of his story retellings, he again yanked my arms hard saying that he bet I could have done it if I had wanted to, and then told me that if it were up to him, he would have kicked me in the head until he had made me do it.

After that, he started to desert me again for extended periods so much that yes, I overheated at one point and nearly passed out until I walked in the convention hall by myself and found my other mascot partner and his guide, where I told them what happened. Bear in mind that I was still struggling through my increasing cold through all of this.

When everything came out, both the client, and his temp agency immediately came to the convention center and railed on him. The guy was so eager to please the client, I think he was angry at me for “failing” them and was punishing me for it. At least, that’s the only thing I could rationalize out of his behavior. I could have cost him his job, but my mascot partner and I switched guides, putting an end to the issue. But what a weirdo. The client themselves were as nice as they could be.

And of course, my back went out again during all of this, which wasn’t fun. I recuperated, and went to Cactus Joe’s for a break, which gave me the chance to meet this fellow:

Not uncommon to see at the sanctuary.

Not uncommon to see at the sanctuary.

My adventures were not fully over for the month, as I had to help Sarah Jane get her license.

There’s two stories to this tale: Mine and hers (her site is hilarious, but definitely NSFW, just letting you know now).

A while back, she had her license suspended for reasons I’ll let her explain, and while that time had passed, and she’s been driving, it came to her attention that she’s been driving on a continued suspended license. So much for people giving critical “need to know” info. like that, as she was caught unawares. So needless to say, she wasn’t supposed to be driving, and that’s where I came in.

I left work early to drop her off at the DMV, as well as a chance to see the new house she’s moved into. As with any moving process, it takes a while to get acclimated (as attested to a closet or two at my own place that I haven’t quite gotten around to yet), but for being freshly moved, the place looks nice. As per her, I was greeted by hair curlers and a bathrobe, which honestly, I wish more people would show up to the door in. I appreciate a casual attitude from people as it is.

So she gets ready, and then off to the DMV. In comparison, she is tiny in contrast to my tall, willowy frame, so it took me a while to adjust all the mirrors and seat, and pre-set all the radio stations to things that I like to hear, add on a lift kit and hydraulics, add custom yak hair to the interior…. But we were on the road regardless.

Nothing out of the ordinary. It shouldn’t be, anyway. It’s a driving test. What could possibly happen with such a mundane task, but as soon as I turned off the car and started to hand over her keys, she started hopping up and down and angrily cursing. Of course, one can’t ignore this sort of thing, so upon inquiry, she forgot all her paperwork on her kitchen counter, and her driving instructor was ready. “Please go back to the house and get those papers”, she intoned desperately. “Yellow folder! Hurry!” So I raced back to her house as her driving instructor waited impatiently.

Now this is where our tale branches off in two directions: Her story and my story. My story detailed a race against time to her house… with every single person driving as slow as they possibly could. Other student drivers? Who can say. All I know is that I was freaking out as I raced her truck back to her house, a vague, conceptual idea of where it was having only been there once, and behind every slow driver on the road. Seriously. People wouldn’t turn. They sat at right turn lanes at red lights, even with no traffic, and me, guessing for the best, made it to the house, burst in through the kitchen at top speed (after figuring out which key constituted as the house key), and then meeting my new nemesis.

I was backing out of her driveway, when a car just drove up in the street, and stopped directly in front of me. I stared at him. He stared at me. I motioned intently that I needed to move. He stared at me. I made confused sad and pleading faces, mouthing the word “Move”, while he again just stared blankly at me. Our eyes locked. Nothing happened. Finally, I turned the truck around, still with unadjusted mirrors, and hoped for the best. I grabbed the nearest driveway, and pulled in. Again, he stopped behind me and stared at me. I rolled down the window and bellowed “MOVE”, to which he finally complied, and drove past to let me out, and drive back against now newly-activated school zones, and pedestrians that utilized the word “mosey” to the very fullest. Oh, my God, I was dying.

Sarah, on the other hand, stalled incessantly to buy me time. She stalled on the eye test, reading slowly. She said she had to go to the bathroom, and took forever in there due to “cramps”. She stopped to show the driving instructor (a man that she described as an R. Lee Emery drill instructor type) interesting things in a completely jovial manner. She “confused” as to which entrance I was going to come in, leading them on a “oops” walk an extra time or two.

And finally, as the man demanded that not having a car to drive for a driving test was unacceptable, and where was the driver, I barreled up full speed to the lot, getting out and tossing her the keys. Covered in our own sweats of harried desperation and panic were we from our separate adventures, but Sarah got her driving test started.

And failed the test. Turns out, they didn’t even need the papers after all.

Disconsolate, we drove to Fremont Street for a Thai luncheon, and commiserated over our separate adventures, and her cranky driving instructor. Then it was off to my own next round of random hijinks.

For the next “First Friday” would set the tone for one of 2012′s greatest and strangest adventures….

Michael Jackson and Yule Goats.

‘Tis the Season….

For Blue Man Group and Michael Jackson: The Immortal.

My friend Sarah Jane (the other Sarah Jane I know) was generous in giving a chance to see the Blue Man Group when it was at the Venetian. Problem was, during the beginning of December, there is some marathon that shuts down the entirety of the Strip and Downtown. It is completely blocked off, and getting in or out takes an incredible amount of backroad know-how.

But the show itself (once getting there) was a lot of fun, with lots of messiness and things happening in the audience.

I blue it.

I blue it.

Not Tobias Funke.

Not Tobias Funke.

After that, it was time for the American Country Awards:

The stage.

The stage.

I only spent the last day working on the show. The run-through before the live production later that evening. morning was spent with the country stars of the show. Trace Adkins and Kristin Chenoweth did the hosting, and what little reaction time I had with them was entertaining. Scotty McCreery took his pre-award, hugging my two female co-presenters before going “Ah heck, man, I’ll give you a hug too” to me. And so we had a congratulatory hug, which I thought was funny. Nice kid. Good voice. But it was over and done quickly, so I had the rest of the day to myself.

And then, it was time to check out another show I had been waiting months for.

Being a fan of MJ’s music, I was pretty excited to see how Cirque du Soleil would handle the King of Pop. After all, they did a great job with the Beatles, so I was all ready to go for this one.

Gearing up.

Gearing up.

And the verdict? Not so good.

A permanent show was set up for 2013 at the Mandalay Bay, and whatever is set for that show, I hope they work the kinks out from this very uneven experience.

I needed something to cleanse my palette, so I invited my erstwhile adventure buddy Sarah Jane to accompany me to the Michael Jackson Fan Fest.

The logo.

The logo.

Finally.  Things to pose with.

Finally. Things to pose with.

Here are a few photos from the event:

The car from

The car from “Moonwalker”.

The rocket from "Leave Me Alone".

The rocket from “Leave Me Alone”.

The "Thriller" spider from "This is It".

The “Thriller” spider from “This is It”.

Various MJ outfits.

Various MJ outfits.

The chamber from "Scream".

The chamber from “Scream”.

Recreation of Michael's living room.

Recreation of Michael’s living room.

Robo-Michael.

Robo-Michael.

Can you find the hidden Michael?

Can you find the hidden Michael?

"Remember the Time" throne.

“Remember the Time” throne.

More glorious dramatic posing.

More glorious dramatic posing.

Neverland gate.

Neverland gate.

Now, as for the “spirit of Christmas”, some would say that I got ambitious in trying to make that old Yule Goat myself. Others would say it looked more like a “Yule Scorpion”.

From the back.

From the back.

But haters… are going to hate. It was my first goat, so back off.

I also recreated the “Warp Core Breach”… the signature drink from Star Trek: The Experience. The people mixing up the drinks used me as a guinea pig of sorts to make sure that the drink was accurate. And I did a lot of sampling.

Engage!

Engage!

….

A lot of sampling.

I was pretty buzzed by this point, and probably shouldn’t have been using a lighter, but well, my goat/scorpion hybrid doesn’t light itself:

Oh, the traditions....

Oh, the traditions….

Burn, baby, burn!

Burn, baby, burn!

I… woke up pretty heavy headed the next morning, and it was not a beautiful night. But the party itself was fun. The “cool kids” Museum folk also had another Christmas party, where we burned another much better looking Yule Goat. We even had a Yule Goat cake!

Nice and red inside.

Nice and red inside.

Other Christmas stuff included Christmas light looking at Opportunity Village:

I love Christmas lights!

I love Christmas lights!

Yuletide Castles.

Yuletide Castles.

Celebrating the holidays with a nice big Santa Sack.

Celebrating the holidays with a nice big Santa Sack.

Christmas itself was good.

Playing "Santa Paws".

Playing “Santa Paws”.

A few days after Christmas, I met with friends to prowl Fremont Street. Fremont Street has a number of badly costumed mascot characters like what you would see on Hollywood Blvd., but the costumes on Fremont are the lowest of the Halloween stores.

Tickle THIS!

Tickle THIS!

It was then that the girls in the group coerced me to take a picture with Elmo, but the Muppet, tickling me instead. I was then prompted to tickle Elmo, and what the Hell. I do love goofy photo ops. So I tickled Elmo, until the Muppet started Yelping “Don’t tickle my titties! Don’t tickle my tittles!”

For you see, this Elmo was a girl.

“What? OH!”, I exclaimed, immediately dropping my hands and turning as red as the fur. “In my defense”, I added hastily, “They’re a little hard to notice under all that fur.”

Elmo laughed, gave me a hug, and wished me Happy New Year all the same. And I walked away having inadvertently molested a Muppet.

New Year’s Eve, I had to work a New Year’s Eve special for the American Country New Year’s Live! Among the freezing cold winds at the Mandalay Bay beach, I got to ride another mechanical bull:

Yee-Haw!

Yee-Haw!

After rehearsal, I was planning to meet Gina and Alex on the Strip for my first New Year’s Eve on the Strip proper. I realized that once 6 P.M. hit, I would effectively be trapped in the Strip itself, a la Arkham City. And it was freaky. About 6:45, I saw someone passed out face down in a hallway between the Luxor and Excalibur, a sure sign of the night to come. Out on the street….

No cars.

Areas were walled off, casino bridges were shut down, and people could just freely walk down the middle of the street. It was like one of those movies where the all-consuming infection hit and mutated, causing sections of the city to become quarantined. Total zombie apocalypse material.

Shortly after, I met up with Alex and Gina for steak.

My buddies!

My buddies!

After dinner, things got a little more busy. Sure, there were drunken idiots, but it wasn’t as bad as I expected. People seemed more into just running around and cheering. Our merry group took to photobombing other people’s photos (none more than Gina, however), and other assorted hijinks. Gina also took to petting bald people, guys with giant afros, random high fiving crowds (which actually was more fun than I would have anticipated), and just cheering and waiting for midnight. I had also taken to counting girls in SSDs (Sparkly Slutty Dresses).

And sometime during the course of the evening, midnight hit, and we watched the fireworks in front of Caesars Palace:

2012!

2012!

This is where it got a little weird. The walking around all night was actually much easier than I expected, but by CityCenter, this HUGE mob just formed, and only there. Gina, Alex, and myself had to literally form a huddled triad to keep together and from getting mobbed. It wasn’t that we so much moved as it was more spinning in place and trying not to fall over. And then as suddenly as we left that area, it was over and back to normal. And then some girl walked by and grabbed my “Wonder Bits”. Karmic retribution for molesting Elmo just days before.

And so began 2012….

The Broken Guy.

After nearly a month of solid haunting, my body felt really bad.

Despite easier accommodations, the cooler weather and the strange position I had to stay in for hours on end as a severed head wrecked my left shoulder and lower back. I could feel it as we went “full time”, and while I got proactive with massage and days at the spa, it was back to square one when another weekend came around.

But I still found time to get into my usual brand of mischief.

Tours at the Museum were at their usual: One kid argued with me that alligators are extinct to no assistance of the teacher to set that right, to my discussing how the dinosaurs went extinct in great detail.

Me: “And that’s what caused the extinction of the dinosaurs. Any questions?” *pause* “Yes?”
Kid: “But how did the dinosaurs die?”
Me: *stares blankly* “Are.. are you kidding? I just told you.”

Zoolander, apparently, was based off of real-life people.

Outside of work, I ended up meeting Sarah Jane to counter-protest Westboro Baptist Church as they were protesting in front of a high school. Really? They target children with their hate rhetoric now? I didn’t so much join the chanting (lack of voice) or the sign waving (lack of energy) or even the elaborate costuming (Sarah Jane covered all three factors), but I wanted to make a stand that I was on the other side of the crowd when it came to their protests.

Hatin' on the hate....

Hatin’ on the hate….

And hey, curiosity. I wanted to see what these sort of people looked like. Of course, there were only four of them, singing bad covers of Lady Antebellum songs. Actually, after my Kauai adventures, I’ve grown fond of “Need You Now”, as they played it constantly as I drove around the island, but now I get to envision a bunch of sour-pussed grumps singing how everyone not like them is going to Hell. For people who claim to have all the answers and are so self-righteous, they look like genuinely miserable people.

That’s nothing to say of the follow-up cast party from my haunting friends. I’d like to say “It all started normally enough….”, but that’s how most of these things begin.

One of the people in attendance was something of a “Wild Card”. Always in peoples faces demanding to know why you didn’t like him (though nothing had been said), and he was well blitzed before the party even really began. He took a liking to the little group I was hanging out with, and just when you think he was gone, “Drunk Guy” would reappear to get more aggro and vocal, slamming chairs, and screaming that he spent nearly $400 on a bar tab that people took advantage of, and he couldn’t cover it on his credit card, all the while screaming because people took his keys, and he was belligerent towards everyone at this point.

For one moment, I thought we had finally shaken him, but as if on cue, “Drunk Guy” immediately reappeared out of nowhere like Mr. Mxyzptlk to join us at a table. “Oh Goddammit, don’t you ever go away”, I sighed wearily.

At this point… “Drunk Guy” was moaning that his pay was docked to cover his bar tab, and then demanded to know how much the Boyfriend of the couple I was sitting with made. “How much”, “Drunk Guy” demanded. “HOW MUCH? YOU FUCKING TELL ME!” At this point, the neighboring table of three huge Latinos snapped “Shut the fuck up! You’re getting in our conversation”, at “Drunk Guy”, to which he mouthed off at them. “And I’m done”, I said, getting up. It was then that the Latinos pushed “Drunk Guy” into me, and having enough, I elbow blocked him to keep him off of me. “Drunk Guy” was furious at the Latinos and threw his beer bottle down on the floor, smashing the bottle near my feet, beer and glass flying into my sandals.

If I had enough earlier, I was seriously done now. “Are you serious? You fucking asshole!” I raised my arm to shove him away, then lowered it as I glanced over my shoulder, my eyes widened in horror.

Oh, not good. Not like this.

The three Latinos were bearing down on me and fast.

So I did what I could: I smiled broadly and said “Whoa, we’re cool” to them as I quickly pointed over at “Drunk Guy” and told them to “Have fun”, as I side-stepped the charge. The bartender broke it up, and they went outside. All I know is that while the bartender handed me a wet paper towel to clean glass off my feet and keep me from further getting cut, the parking lot exploded into a lot of cop cars, and a lot of handcuffed people.

I said goodnight to my friends, now truly ready to walk out the door. “This never happens to me”, the girl said. “Are you kidding”, I stated matter of factly, “Stuff like this happens to me all the time.”

We walked out, and there was “Drunk Guy”, looking hopeful as if we’d back up his story. “Hey! Fuckers! Come here”, he bellowed at us like we were old friends. I stared at him briefly for a moment. “No. I think not”, I said, as I ducked past the cops so that I could go home. Police questioning was the last thing I wanted after that particular night.

Injured, but smiling.

Injured, but smiling.

Life outside of work and prospective bar fights was far more normal: Lake Las Vegas, Boulder City, a visit to the Zombie Apocalypse Store (for all your undead needs) and a lot of massages. I felt like the hunchback, and nothing was setting me back to my old, fun-loving ways.

Braiiiiiiiiiiiins....

Braiiiiiiiiiiiins….

But I dragged myself out to the South Point Casino to support Sarah Jane in the “Sons of Italy Spaghetti Eating Contest”. It was an astounding, fairly grotesque affair where people had to eat unlimited 1 pound plates of spaghetti for seven minutes. Someone ate 12 plates. 12 POUNDS of spaghetti. I was mortified, but fascinated. Sarah Jane was not “The Biggest Eater”, but she gulped down a respectable 3 1/2 pounds.

Live music!

Live music!

"The Silver Slurper" competes.

“The Silver Slurper” competes.

Years later I would get my comeuppance for these shots.

Years later I would get my comeuppance for these shots.

My pain-ridden gloominess was forgotten with Sarah Jane’s food antics, eating handfuls of spaghetti like a baby wanting to feed themself for the first time. It was thusly hilarious, and a welcome diversion. I also attended a Yelp event, again hanging out with my pink hatted pal at P.J. Clarke’s as we attempted to eat oysters in a very overcrowded venue.

Sophisticated hors d'oeuvres.

Sophisticated hors d’oeuvres.

Building a better beard....

Building a better beard….

One day, whilst walking the dogs in the neighborhood, one of the neighbors revealed that the previous owner, an old lady, died in the living room. Fun! That’s a comforting thought, isn’t it? Because now whenever I walk into the room, it’s the first thing I think of, and where exactly in the living room did she die?

Ghostbustin'....

Ghostbustin’….

At least I was starting to feel somewhat better again…. And of course, there was Skyrim….